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News Analysis: President Obama in Newton (April 23, 2009)

posted on April 24, 2009 at 10:09 AM

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Paul Yeager: We turn to David Pitt of the Associated Press who has been following several stories and one of the ones we're talking about is yesterday or at least on Wednesday President Barack Obama back in Iowa, hard to believe, it seems like he hasn't even left, he was campaigning here all the time.  This is not a campaign event, this was a wind energy event on Earth Day.  Let's talk about the wind energy business in Iowa.  How is it doing?  Is it the best in the country?  Let's start with that.

David Pitt: Well, we're now number two in the country for the capacity that we can generate from wind energy behind Texas.  Texas is significantly ahead of any other state.  Iowa was third and just surpassed California.  So, we now have just over 1100 turbines in Iowa and about 47 wind farms.  We make a significant amount of wind energy that is distributed throughout a number of states and I think one of the issues that we will probably talk about here in a few minutes perhaps is that we have to get a smarter grid and a better grid and that is one of the things that the president talked about in his visit, the significant amount of money, the billions of dollars that the federal government wants to put in to developing not only wind energy but geothermal energy and energy from the sun and other sources as well.

Paul Yeager: So, he's not just talking wind energy -- I think he made a big line in his speech talking about we need to have development and research for what that future, what that next is.  Is that what you're talking about?

David Pitt: Exactly.  Before we get too far with wind energy we have to be able to have an energy grid, an electricity grid that can deliver the energy from the wind sources in Iowa, Texas and some other places to the population centers.  So, right now we just don't have that capability and there is a lot of research going into what is called a smart grid, electronically controlled delivery of electricity and then there's simply building up the capacity of power lines and poles and the things that deliver electricity from the source to its end point.

Paul Yeager: Just like roads we have to have infrastructure for this industry.  So, we're saying we produce it, there's plenty of parts of this state if you drive around Blairsburg and go up to Belmond or Clear Lake or Garner and even go to the west and see them along I-80, we're not only producing but we're making the turbines as well, I think you said six different plants in Iowa.  But this would be, yesterday's message from the president, this would actually help the business in terms of making more wind turbines if they would do the offshore.  Is that also an encouraging sign of what has come out of the president's message?

David Pitt: I think it's a sign of the tremendous growth that we've seen in wind energy production.  As a matter of a few years ago most of the companies that made turbines and towers and the things of that nature were out of foreign countries, we had very little of that manufacturing process happening in the United States and a number of those countries have seen the potential for wind energy and rapid growth in the United States and have now placed factories in the U.S. and we have a number of them here in Iowa, Fort Madison, Cedar Rapids, West Branch, in Newton as well where the president was yesterday, that particular plant took the old Maytag factory and turned it into a plant at least in part where they make the towers that wind turbines sit on top of.

Paul Yeager: Is this going to be part of the federal stimulus we think?

David Pitt: It is, it is part of the federal stimulus and several billion dollars going into research on how the grid can be developed and that will be leaving it up to different universities, different organizations that have the capacity to study, again, the technology that will go into controlling the energy, perhaps even storage.  I know there is a big project out of Ankeny, Iowa to study ways to perhaps store compressed air underground and then release it when it's needed.  So, there are some issues like storage capacity and just transmission that we need to get.

Paul Yeager: Are those types of interest things people are investing in?

David Pitt: Yes, as a matter of fact I'm just working on a story for the AP about that and it is a very rapidly growing part of the investment community, people who want to take that conscientiousness they have about green energy and turn that into actually pocketbook issues, if I have money to invest perhaps what I'll do is look into some of these companies that are either producers of energy, producing the technology or the equipment to make green energy and perhaps that's where I'll invest my money.  There are mutual funds that exist now and other types of funds that people can invest in if they'd like to do that.

Paul Yeager: That makes it sound like this movement is much more than just a pipe dream but very legitimate if people are willing to put money -- we saw farmers put money towards ethanol -- is it that same type of thing just extended now to different types of energy?

David Pitt: I think that's right and you might have noticed that was part of the president's speech yesterday.  I think one of the points he was making is this is going to take everyone to get involved from the very individual level to the corporate level to the government level and I think that we're seeing at least a significant number of people who are interested in investing in companies and doing it just for the purpose of I want to put my money somewhere that is environmentally friendly.

Paul Yeager: That would help the economy but that's a whole other discussion we'll get into at a different time.  David Pitt of the Associated Press, thank you so very much for stopping by The Iowa Journal tonight.

David Pitt: You're welcome.


Tags: Barack Obama ecology economy Iowa manufacturing Maytag news Newton presidents


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